I got a weird and wonderful call this week.
The area code was 910. I recognized it because it is the same as my parents’. On my phone screen the word Fayetteville popped up. Most people would not get excited by that word. My hometown does not have the most exciting nor stellar reputation. But for me, when I imagine that city, I just get all warm and tingly inside.
The voicemail was jumbled and cut off a few seconds into the call. But I could clearly make out the name, and I surely recognized the voice.
“Danny, this is Joy from Fayetteville. I saw a picture of you on Facebook and…”
Joy was the pianist and a youth leader at my church when I was growing up. Although old to us at the time, she was probably early thirties, she was so stinkin’ cool. She was one of few adults who let my friends and me call her by her first name: Joy. How fitting. She brought a ton of it to me.
In many ways, I was an insecure teen, not quite sure what to think of myself or my place in the world. I did not peak in high school – that is an understatement – I didn’t even slightly ascend. But Joy and Doug and Kim and Mike and Mr. Lundy and Mrs. Byrd and Miss Patty hurled themselves into my life with the full intent of helping me to discover all that I had that was good. I’m sure it was a chore – like finding a pineapple tree growing in the Alaskan Tundra.
It didn’t seem to bother them that I was imperfect. Sometimes I cussed. Once I led the brigade of boys on a youth retreat in a full on mooning convention. We pulled our pants down every single time a girl in our group walked by and even mooned passersby from the church bus windows. These adults showed me love and compassion and how to invest in the lives of those around you.
Because of my work at the YMCA, I often read articles on how to insure that children grow up with a strong self-esteem and the ability to be productive members of society. Having adults outside of your family who care about you is a key factor in accomplishing those goals.
I am thankful for Joy and for my church that poured into me for so many years. I am thankful for the adults who have done the same for my kids.
Now, it’s my turn.